This paper was originally published on March 12, 2007, on the gantthead web site and is reproduced here by permission. It is copyright to gantthead and Michael R. Wood, ©2007. Published here November 2007.

Editor's Note | Introduction | Stepping Up to the Metrics Challenge 
Perceptions Count - Big Time | Aligned Metrics Promote Healthier Organizations
Paying Attention to Paradigm Shifts Can Pay Big Dividends | Building a Passion for Achievement

Michael Wood is a CPA, executive, entrepreneur, educator and author. He is currently the principal of the Natural Intelligence Group, a management consultancy. Prior to that, he was the Executive Vice President of Outcomes Management for the Corporation for Standards and Outcomes (CS&O), a leader in the development of outcome-based methods and Internet applications in the behavioral healthcare industry. Michael's broad industry background and experience has positioned him as an expert in the field of business process improvement and reengineering. This subject is the focus of his new book: The HELIX Factor - The key to streamlining your business processes. He can be reached at mrw[at]

Editor's Note

The question of selecting the right, or even suitable, metrics for tracking the progress and success of projects is a hot topic of discussion amongst project management practitioners these days. Michael Wood draws on his experience in the IT sector where it is particularly relevant to the tracking of project portfolios. Michael provides some valuable insights and advice. For example, he observes:

"One would think that developing quantifiable criteria by which success can be determined would not be such a difficult area ..."

But then of course, it depends on how you define "success"!

He goes on to say:

"I have a theory about the difficult part and it goes like this: IT folks, in general, don't want to be measured or held accountable for the value they deliver. They would prefer just to be trusted to do their best ..."

True, he may be singling out "IT folks", but that refrain is not unfamiliar in other areas of project management application.

But for project managers "It'll be done when it is done" is just not good enough. We need to know when. Without that information it is impossible to coordinate related activities and save, or at least reduce, the time lost while handing off to the next activity in the project.

However, we do have one caution. Michael speaks of "stakeholder-value driven metrics" and "delivering value to the organization". That's fine, but who is actually "mining" that value? That is, actively pursuing the realization to the organization or its stakeholders of the benefits of the new products? That responsibility is beyond the immediate reach of an IT department - or any project or program management department for that matter. Without such active pursuit within the organization as a whole, any amount of metrics tracking just the delivery of project deliverables on their own could deliver very little actual benefit, i.e. value, to the organization.

So when Michael observes that: "So often, staff see metrics as obtrusive, make work/management pacifying endeavors that lack any real connection to how they deliver value to the organization", it is just within the bounds of possibility that the staff are quite correct. Nevertheless, Michael's advice is valuable for any area of project management application, and that's why we requested permission to reproduce his paper on this web site.


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